Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in the mid-19th century.
Since then, the Christmas tale has become engrained in our everyday culture. There’s been film adaptations, operas, and countless stage versions of the story.
The name "Scrooge" has even become a term in our language, as a description for someone who is miserly.
But popularity comes with it’s downsides. For one, audiences know the story so well, they can forget the greater meaning of it. And elaborate set designs and huge casts can be distracting.
And that’s why for Parallel 45 Theatre Company, less is more when it comes to this Christmas classic.
A Christmas Carol in Prose is a staged adaptation of Charles Dickens’ tale. The story centers around a character named Ebenezer Scrooge.
If you don’t already know, he’s a really selfish, greedy guy, who doesn’t have any compassion.
Bill Church is the one playing the role of Scrooge. Over the years, many different people have played Scrooge— from Basil Rathbone to Jim Carrey. Some of those portrayals tend to be more humorous.
“I think people just expect it to be kind of a comic romp, and that Scrooge is kind of an idiot,” says Church.
But he says he likes to think Parallel 45’s version strips away some of the silliness and clichés often associated with A Christmas Carol.
“He’s actually a pretty heartfelt man with a wide range of things going on in there— spiritually, emotionally— on all levels.”
Over the course of the show, three ghosts visit Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The different spirits take Scrooge on a journey back through his life, and show him how he used to be, what he is now, and what he’ll become if he continues to live selfishly.
“I think for me playing Scrooge, it’s this idea of redemption,” says Church. “And a chance to change your path.”
Kit McKay is the director for Parallel 45’s show. She says she doesn’t think of A Christmas Carol in Prose, as a play, but as a storytelling event.
“We are taking Dickens’ original words and we are taking the audience on a journey, using his descriptions and his narratives,” she explains. “Rather than trying to recreate those images using theatrical effects, we are letting the audience participate with their imaginative contributions.”
The cast is intentionally small— just six actors in fact. That means the actors are forced to play multiple characters in the show. Shelby Lewis is one of them, and she plays about 18 characters in total.
“Any range of British accents from really low Cockney, to very upper class,” she says.
A Christmas Carol in Prose doesn’t take place on the actual stage, either. Instead, it happens on the same floor where the audience members sit. That means once the show starts, there is no off-stage time for the actors. All the scene transitions and costume changes, happen right among the audience.
Kit Mckay says they want the viewers to feel a part the story, instead of just observers.
After peering into his future and seeing what the end of his life will look like, Scrooge begs the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come for a second chance. And that's exactly what he gets. Soon, he becomes generous with his wealth, and begins to enjoy the people around him. That’s a message that McKay hopes resonates with the audience.
“I hope that they get a little joy right now,” she explains. “And I hope they use that joy as fuel to help others in need.”
A Christmas Carol in Prose runs now through December 18th at the City Opera House, in Traverse City. CherryT Ball Drop is sponsoring the show and is donating all the proceeds to local charities. For tickets, click here.